31 Incredibly Useful Tips Every Anxious Traveler Needs To Know?
W hile I was researching for this article I wrote pertaining to apprehension before going on a trip, I found this article called 31 Incredibly Useful Tips Every Anxious Traveler Needs To Know, which was written by Anna Borges for BuzzFeed; and those suggestions were compiled from members of its community.
31 Incredibly Useful Tips Every Anxious Traveler Needs To Know?
“Because your anxiety doesn’t take a vacation just because you do” is the tagline to the article — and that is true. Although it pertains more to depression than anxiety, Andy Luten of Andy’s Travel Blog — a person with whom I have had the pleasure of meeting — recorded what he called a “rant” in a video in which he was quite candid about how travel will not fix you; and he posted that video in this article.
The 31 tips are listed below — along with my commentary…
Before You Take Your Trip
- Taking photographs of all the things you are afraid of not doing before you leave — such as oven knobs, locks, thermostats — is a good idea to ensure that you can look at the photographs while you are traveling to ensure that you did not forget to shut off anything. I personally have no use for this tip, as I simply do everything at once immediately prior to leaving — including shutting off the valve for the water main inside of the house, turning off the router and modem for the Internet, and setting timers for lights to turn on at various times at night.
- Packing the “biggest, baggiest, softest sweatshirt” which you own and smells like home might be a “nice grounding tool” as well as “a portable sleeping bag/hideaway for plane rides”; but this tip would not work for me, as that is simply one more item to carry — and I rarely wear sweatshirts.
- I always bring a few snacks with me; and I have espoused this important tip in past articles. The snacks should not spoil quickly or easily; should be tasty and filling enough to tide me over until I can enjoy a meal; are easily portable; and are not expensive. This may be a good tip for especially picky eaters who become anxious at the prospect of trying new food — but despite me being a picky eater myself, I actually look forward to trying various types of different cuisine in foreign lands.
- Pick a spot for all your important items so that you are less likely to think that you have lost them may work to reduce anxiety; but it may not be a good idea when pertaining to valuable items — such as a passport or credit cards in the event that you are robbed. In fact, I do a variation to tip number one in this article: I place the items which I intend — but am not yet ready — to pack for my trip in one place so that I can take inventory at a glance and pack everything quickly once I am ready.
- I planned my trips to both Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park in the United States — as well as to Banff National Park, Jasper National Park and Yoho National Park in Canada — during what is known as “shoulder season” when those places will be less crowded. What I do is plan the first part of those trips at times when there are fewer people but fewer places are open for the season — which are then the focus of the second part of the trip. By straddling my trip between the peak and off-peak seasons, I get the benefits of both: I enjoy both fewer crowds and visits to more places at usually a lower cost which saves me money. I can see how this tip leads to decreased anxiety.
- Exhaustive research of where you are going may reduce anxiety; but then it takes some of the spontaneity — and therefore some of the fun — out of a trip. Absolutely do your homework prior to leaving on your trip — but please do not overdo it. Do, however, learn at least one word of the official language of any country to which you plan on visiting.
- Keeping all of my research in a binder does not work for me, as I do not need something hard and bulky as one more item to carry while I travel. At most — if I cannot access my itinerary and research electronically on one of my portable electronic devices, I will have a few sheets of paper stapled together with all of the information I need printed on the front and back; and I use this paper to add handwritten notes when necessary.
- Creating a super-detailed itinerary might theoretically work to reduce anxiety; but be prepared for that anxiety level to increase dramatically if the itinerary does not go as planned. Keep in mind that anything can go wrong during your trip for virtually any reason — and you need to have some leeway in the event that that happens.
- I use mapping software — such as Google Maps — more and more to precisely know where I am going even though I have an excellent sense of direction. This is an excellent tip — especially when you can lower the “peg man” or “dude guy” or whatever that yellow humanoid figure is called to Street View level and see exactly the landmarks, buildings, signs and other items which will help you find your way quickly. If possible, print some key maps — along with precise directions — of areas which you might anticipate to be especially difficult to navigate.
- I used to create informal packing lists — but I rarely do that anymore unless I am going on a specialized trip such as a safari. Definitely check the weather of where and when you are traveling and pack accordingly. I almost did not take a coat with me on my recent trip to Eastern Europe — and that would have been a major mistake for many reasons. Also, pack items which are comfortable and versatile and can be matched easily with each other — and do not hesitate to wear one item more than once, as you can wash it either while you are traveling or when you return home.
- I am not exactly sure what “bring clothes that make you feel like taking on the world” means; but if it reduces anxiety, go for it. I will stick with my jeans, shirts and comfortable shoes, thank you.
- Not leaving anything to the morning or day on which you leave could actually potentially increase anxiety rather than reduce it. For example, let’s say you packed something last week; but on the morning of your trip, you do not remember if you packed it. Is it at the bottom of your bag under other items? Although it may cause me more work, I spend less time packing — and worrying — when it is all done just before I leave, because what I packed is still fresh in my mind when I leave. Of course, this might not work for everyone.
- Talking to a doctor pertaining to potential prescriptions is a last resort for me, as I do not believe in taking medication unless absolutely necessary — but then again, I do not suffer from anxiety or panic attacks. Fortunately for me, I take no medication — not even an aspirin — but if you must take medication, ensure that you have enough to last you for your trip.
Getting There and Back
- You should always plan ahead to ensure that you are processed through the security checkpoint at the airport as smoothly and as quickly as possible, as the experience can easily escalate to become significantly stressful and cause undue anxiety. Wear shoes which are easy to take off and put back on again; and empty your pockets and place the contents in a secure pocket of your bag, as I suggested in this recent article.
- I have been chastised about this in the past; but I personally refuse to pay one penny towards a “trusted traveler” program such as TSA Pre✓ or Global Entry — but if waiting in long lines at a security checkpoint cause you to suffer from significant anxiety, perhaps paying the extra money might be worth it to you. Just keep in mind that things can go wrong here as well — such as if the line for “trusted travelers” is closed for some reason and you are stuck in a long line anyway.
- Taking screenshots of all your flight details, directions, maps and other information and storing them on your portable electronic device is a great idea in case you do not have access to the Internet — and as I already mentioned, printing out hard copies of select important information on paper is a good idea as well in case the battery of your portable electronic device is depleted of power and you are unable to immediately recharge it.
- I always ensure that my necessities — in fact, everything I take with me whenever I travel — are in my carry-on bag so that I do not need to check a bag. The trip is so much easier; and you can easily significantly reduce anxiety by simply not taking too many of your belongings with you and not having to check a bag. This tip has been rule number one with me for years.
- Planning extra time for stops along the way if you are driving in case you need to take a breather is not a bad idea — you want to ensure that you are alert at all times whenever you drive, as getting involved in an accident will send anxiety levels sky-high for just about anyone — or in case you see something interesting along the way which you were not expecting but want to stop and explore.
- Listen to music during boarding and when the airplane takes off. Please read this article for more details on my thoughts on how music is important to me whenever I travel.
- The tip of ensuring that none of your “podcasts” reference travel-related disasters is a bit strange — but then again, I would have no problem watching a movie pertaining to a disaster or crash involving an airplane while I am a passenger during a flight. Perhaps I am strange.
- Upgrading to a seat in the premium class cabin could indeed reduce anxiety when traveling — but it could simultaneously potentially increase anxiety when you find out how much money or how many miles and points you have spent on the experience. I consider traveling in the premium class cabin more of a treat which I will do once in a while and not to reduce anxiety — but then again, I typically have no issues traveling in the economy class cabin; so this tip does not necessarily apply to me.
During Your Trip
- Do not assume that your anxiety will hinder or ruin your experience, as Amanda K — who is a member of the BuzzFeed community — expressed: “I deal with anxiety and panic attacks on a regular basis, so when I was traveling to Cuba I automatically assumed that I’d be riddled with anxiety and would not be able to have a good time. Because of these thoughts I only became more anxious. I am now not afraid to vacation because I have learned that if panic ensues it does, but it’s not guaranteed.” I have nothing to add to this tip.
- Be prepared for your schedule to go out the window — which I already mentioned in tip number 8 of this article. There are too many “moving parts” and aspects of travel which can easily go wrong. Expect and embrace the moment when your schedule goes out of whack — and consider it an opportunity to be spontaneous, as I am a believer in things happening for a reason.
- Limiting yourself to one activity per day if you get overwhelmed may be a good idea to reduce anxiety; but I believe that there needs to be a measured balance of what to do in a certain amount of time, as I attempt to schedule as many activities as I can during a trip with as little sacrifice as possible as to the quality time spent on those activities. This tip actually refers back to tip number 6 of researching your trip. If one activity will only take 30 minutes, there is no reason to waste the remainder of the day on a trip limited by time — and for some people, wasting precious travel time causes them to experience increased anxiety. Only you know what you are capable of doing; so plan accordingly — and do include some time for recuperation if you need it.
- Schedule some downtime away from the people with whom you are traveling — especially if you are together at virtually all times during the trip. This can include taking a nap; partaking in an activity by yourself; having a meal alone; or maybe going for a walk for a few minutes. Of course, if you travel alone, this tip is not very useful.
- Stop to do some breathing exercises when you are too overwhelmed — or perhaps engage in some form of meditation. For some people, those few moments of calm and quiet helps to “center” themselves.
- I absolutely refuse to “go on those cheesy tours.” I fail to see how that reduces anxiety — although I suppose all of the planning is left up to the tour operator. I personally do not recommend this tip — but then again, I do not suffer from anxiety or panic attacks; so what do I know?!?
- Do not try to hide the fact that you are anxious. Being conscious of your anxiety will likely cause you to be even more anxious. Instead, focus your attention on your trip — and enjoy yourself.
- Write a journal of your travels during downtime. Better yet, why not record your thoughts and experiences in a weblog? This is one of the reasons why I enjoy writing about my experiences here at The Gate — although I rarely have downtime outside of eating, sleeping and showering.
- I would advise against checking in with people back home if you need to do so — at least, not more than necessarily. That is time you could be spending on your trip — or, at least, relaxing. If you absolutely need to do so, use social media where the interaction is minimal at best. For some people, reminders of home can actually increase anxiety if they would rather be home than traveling at that moment.
- Be kind to yourself and pause to take care of yourself when you need it. As I mentioned in tip number 24, only you know what you are capable of doing; so plan accordingly — and do include some time for recuperation if you need it. Take a moment to reevaluate yourself and give yourself some “me” time to allow yourself to release the emotions you are feeling at that moment to help keep anxiety at bay.
I would say that few of the 31 aforementioned tips would be classified as “incredibly useful”; but then again: different strokes for different folks, as the saying goes…
…and if you have any additional tips which either help you with reducing anxiety or that you believe would help other people reduce their anxiety, please post them in the Comments section below.
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.